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'Abnormal' number of natural deaths suggests 'not all Covid deaths get reported'

2 July 2020 7:00 PM
Tags:
SAMRC
natural deaths
deaths
sa medical research council
Covid-19 deaths
Debbie Bradshaw

The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) has reported an unusual increase in the number of natural deaths in South Africa.

The SAMRC says the number of deaths countrywide from natural causes has surged significantly higher than was expected, in comparison to the historical trend.

Between 6 May 2020 and 23 June 2020, there has been an excess of 4,039 deaths from natural causes, according to an SAMRC report.

Meanwhile, deaths from unnatural causes, such as road accidents and murder, is slightly below the predicted number for the period between the first of January and the 23rd of June.

The SAMRC has used historical data from 2018 and 2019 to predict the number of deaths that could be expected during 2020.

The council's Professor Debbie Bradshaw says the impact of Covid-19 may be greater than the officially reported fatalities.

The surveillance systems have limitations. Not all Covid-19 deaths are getting reported. There could also be some overburdening on the health system that's showing up fatalities as well.

Prof Debbie Bradshaw, Director - Burden of Disease Research Unit - SA Medical Research Council

Bradshaw, the SAMRC’s Burden of Disease Research Unit, says South Africa's official Covid-19 death statistics are largely reliant on hospital records.

Meanwhile, many other Covid-19-related deaths that occur at home go unreported.

At the same time, Bradshaw explains that some of the excess deaths may be due to medicine shortages or poor access to healthcare during the pandemic as a result of an overburdened system.

When we focus on the natural deaths, deaths from diseases, we see that it's gone up more than the number of officially reported or confirmed Covid-19 cases.

Prof Debbie Bradshaw, Director - Burden of Disease Research Unit - SA Medical Research Council

There are deaths that happen in the community, not in health facilities, and haven't had a Covid test done.

Prof Debbie Bradshaw, Director - Burden of Disease Research Unit - SA Medical Research Council

Some of them would be Covid-19 deaths that have been missed in the system but some of them might be deaths due to the fact that the ambulances weren't available to take somebody to the hospital because the service has become overburdened.

Prof Debbie Bradshaw, Director - Burden of Disease Research Unit - SA Medical Research Council

Listen to the discussion on Afternoon Drive with John Maytham:


2 July 2020 7:00 PM
Tags:
SAMRC
natural deaths
deaths
sa medical research council
Covid-19 deaths
Debbie Bradshaw

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